Baby Strange: Club Sabbath

Baby Strange are a dark and high-paced caustic rhythm machine from Glasgow, Scotland. They were formed in 2012 by Johnny Madden and brothers Aidan and Connaire McCann, tired with the mundane banality of Glasgow’s music scene at the turn of the new decade. Since then they have honed a highly melodic post punk sound, condensed into neat three minutes slices of blasted energy. In the past they have toured with the likes of Slaves, Palma Violets, Swim Deep, Ice Age. They have been recording their debut album ‘Want It Need It’ over the past few years – predominately with Thomas McNeice, as well as having recorded track ‘California Sun’ with Catherine Marks (Foals, Wolf Alice). It is due for release September 2nd and is followed by a UK tour to see out the remainder of 2016. Ever active on the British live-circuit, the band are fresh from a host of summer festival dates, including headlining the Friday of So Young Festival at The Old Blue Last in London with Aldous RH, Jerkcurb and Free Money.

For the last year the band has been putting on a semi-regular Sunday late-night gig at The Priory Bar in their hometown of Glasgow, appropriately titled Club Sabbath. One could expect to find many members of the youthful, guitar-oriented Glasgow music scene in the The Priory Bar any given Sunday that the Baby Strange boys are hosting Sabbath – either playing a set on the night, supporting the scene, or simply enjoying a Sunday swally. Always boasting a heavy line-up, the night has seen performances in the past from many up-and-coming Scottish artists such as WOMPS, Home$lice, Declan Welsh, and most notably The Lapelles, whose late frontman Gary Watson was a close friend of Baby Srange and frequenter of Club Sabbath until his tragic and untimely death on the 14th August 2016. In commemoration of the much celebrated East Kilbride musician, Baby Strange, along with WHITE and Dead Beet Records, recently hosted a night at the Priory titled ‘Grab Life By: A Celebration of Gary Watson.’ The show saw the bar bursting at the the brim and pouring on to the street: such was the passionate response by friends and fans of The Lapelles frontman to give him the send off his extreme talent and passion for music deserved.

The most recent Club Sabbath (31st July) marked the twelfth edition of the night, and featured Glasgow punks Rascalton; who played a raucous set that saw all in attendance at The Priory Bar packed in to the intimate space in front of where the band were set up, buzzing and bouncing off each other to their raw & energised, highly melodic fuzz. The night also saw DJ sets from curators Baby Strange, as well as songstress Lucia Fontaine – who releases her debut EP ‘Best Boy’ in Autumn via Glasgow-based Dead Beet Records. An eclectic mix of music is played, extending from Black Flag and The Clash to Todd Terje, building a particularly vibrant atmosphere for a Sunday night in Glasgow.

WHITE  – pals of Baby Strange and another rising Scottish talent – have recently conceived of RAINBOCAINE: a Sunday barbecue and get-together at TIGHT CITY STUDIOS in Glasgow’s Southside. RAINBOCAINE much like Club Sabbath, acts as an informal get together for the creative peoples in Glasgow’s blossoming music and arts scenes. This is the second occasion it has coincided with Club Sabbath and together they look set to become a regular Sunday all-dayer.

Tonight marks the twelfth Club Sabbath night. How did the night come about and what made you choose The Priory Bar as the location?

Johnny: The Priory is a place we’ve been coming for maybe a year, and the guy who runs it just walked up to us one night and said “I’m a fan of the band, yous want to do it” and we were like “Aye of course.” And that was it.
Connaire: Sunday was a good idea for us too, cause I think the bar is generally busy on the weekend, and we were usually too with the band, and I think most people that have normal jobs go out on the weekend, but a Sunday is a sort of sneaky day for students and all that.

Johnny: We found when we first came here, it was a kind of like, a slightly older crowd, and since this nights started its become a bit different. Which is good.

One of your most memorable lyrics is “I’m tired of my generation” from ‘Pure Evil’ – which you’ve stated before extends to yourselves too. In reference to this, is the Club Sabbath night an attempt to combat this fatigue and inject a bit more Baby Strange-styled fun into your lives?

Johnny: I think Sabbath is that song in like a whole in like one night.
Connaire: Aye

Johnny: Totally is man, isn’t it.
Connaire: The funny thing about that song, I think when you have a song, you write a song, a lot of people assume that because you’ve come to that point in your mind, “oh yeah i’m tired of my generation”, that you’ve immediately changed your life around…
Johnny:  We still go out!
Connaire: … and that you never go out [laughs] and the idea is not that, y’know what I mean?

What’s involved in choosing the lineup for Club Sabbath? Seems like the scene is tight enough that all you have to do is ask your friends to get involved in it.

Connaire: I think it started off mainly just like “aw you should, aw you should play” just cause we were hanging about, and then as its got a bit more notoriety, other bands that we’ve liked but maybe not known that well have been happy to come up and play.
Aidan: I think young bands as well. Trying to get the in the key young bands.

In terms of showcasing new and upcoming bands: is the plan to keep a Scottish-oriented focus? Or do you intend to book other bands from around Britain, or even further afield to play the night?

Johnny: Its not something we’ve actually thought about, just so far its pretty much just been Glasgow.
Connaire: I think it would be interesting, we’d like to get other bands as well. I think Glasgow is doing quite well though, every band we’ve had play we’ve thought have been really good, so I’m sure we’ll be doing it that way for a while.

How did The Rockalls playing their last show at Club Sabbath in April come about? Were they already booked or did they choose it as their farewell location?

Johnny: They were literally in here all drunk, and they were like “We’re splitting up, lets do it.”
[Laughs] That was mental man, that gig was really mental.

Connaire: Aye that was totally organic, them just being in here and saying “oh we’re splitting up.” I think it fitted the mood of the way they wanted to go out. It was weird, it was a brilliant gig for them!
Johnny: Probably the best I’ve seen them!

We were like what the fucks going on.
Connaire: It was great!

There appears to be a pretty tight-knit scene of multi-talented musicians in Glasgow. Have you felt the benefits of such a supportive atmosphere?

Johnny: I guess its not made a difference on us as a band, but its nice to have mates all kind of doing shit together. Its better for like the newer bands, that don’t really know the next step to take, maybe need a wee bit of help.
Connaire: Sometimes we’re on tour and young people come up and say “we’re trying to have a band”, and you can see then when there isn’t any real scene its much harder for people. You don’t want to take it granted i guess.

What is the idea behind Rainbocaine?

Johnny: Its mostly Hamish and Lewis of WHITE that do that, and we just kind of come along.
Connaire: Because the first one they did was before Club Sabbath, and so was this one, its kind of come together.

Is it a kind of creative hub for people in Glasgow to get together?

Johnny: Aye I mean, exactly, but it’s just like folk getting drunk and having a good time.
Connaire: But yeah the last time I most loads of people I would have never ever have met if I was just out in Glasgow, and the same tonight, I met people who have no connection to music. I met a guy who researches Global Warming and he’s coming [to Club Sabbath] tonight now so there you go.

How did your relationship with Ignition Records come about?

Connaire: They came to one of our earliest London gigs and kept in touch, and they were always kind of complimentary about us, then we did a single with them, that worked out well, and when the opportunity to do an album with came about we were really happy cause we knew how they worked.

Johnny: It was a year and a half of knowing them and putting out a single or two, so we felt really comfortable doing the album with them.

Your debut album ‘Want It Need It’ is out September 2nd and has been a few years in the making. Do you feel like you’ve achieved a milestone in your music life with its completion?

Johnny: Yeah. It was the goal from the get go to put out an album that we love.
Connaire: I think nowadays especially in the music industry, to have got  deal and put an album out is so hard, it takes so much hard work. Its not even out yet so touch wood. [Laughs]
The album has been 4 years in the making, from being a band struggling to get any kind of recording, and get any gig going, and just playing and trying to piece it all together, its been hard man. Most bands don’t make it to their first album.

Do you have any dream producers or studios? What would you choose for album two with no restrictions?

Johnny: I don’t think about producers that much. I definetly should.
Connaire: I definetly do but they are all dead and most studios are knocked down, but Electric Lady Studios in New York. In terms of album number two we were talking about trying to get something out soon and keep it going rather than waiting another couple of years. And the idea of trying to get it all done in a big batch together.
Johnny: Mikey and Andy are working so well for us.
Connaire: Yeah the guys who mixed the debut, they work so well for us. You can fantasise about the guy whose sold a million records, but we’ve got a good relationship with these guys.

You have recently played a number of festivals around the UK including Y Not and Tramlines, and have played many in the past. Do you have a particular favourite show in your memory?

Johnny: Y Not was pretty good.
Connaire: Without sounding like “oh last one we did was the best one”, we played Y Not a few days ago, and it was a brilliant reaction, the Festival seemed brilliant.
Johnny: Leeds Festival as well, it was good.
Aidan: I liked Reading man.
Johnny: Aye but Reading got cut short. Was a packed tent and we got cut two songs from the end, the crowd were all booing and that, it got crazy.

You recently announced a UK tour as well as co-headline show with WHITE at Glasgow’s 02 ABC, with support from The Ninth Wave and The Cut on Friday 16th December. What can we expect?

Connaire: I think the tour will be brilliant because we’ll have an album out, and we can really do a proper show with a whole album, and we know what we’re doing now. And the end of the year show in Glasgow is probably worth travelling from other cities to come see it, cause WHITE, us, the Ninth Wave, The Cut at Christmas! WHITE will have an EP out at that point as well. It will be a good Friday night.


Words by Adam Skirving